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CD Review

Gustav Mahler

Symphony #5

London Symphony Orchestra/James DePreist
Naxos 8.557990
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This is not an intense Mahler Fifth, but a reasonably good one still. My favorite remains the Chailly/Amsterdam Concertgebouw on London, but the Bernstein recordings (both with the New York Philharmonic and the Vienna Philharmonic) and the Sinopoli/Philharmonia on DG are also excellent. There are numerous others that are worthy of consideration, too. But the question at hand here is, how does this new Naxos effort compare with the others?

For those who favor a more objective, less neurotic approach to Mahler, this DePreist reading will do fine. But 'neurotic' is what many say Mahler is about. Certainly his music often conveys a desperate sense, a feeling of doom. But then too, Mahler expresses the opposite: unbounded joy, sunlit energy and pure ecstasy. Often, of course, Mahler contrasts the dark with the bright in the same symphony, as here.

DePreist captures those contrasts well, rendering the first and second movements, as well as the concluding pair, with spirit and clarity of textures that raise this recording to the level achieved by some of the finest. But the long Scherzo is given a somewhat leisurely pacing. It's not played, mind you, without commitment or energy, but it does come across less convincingly than the other four movements. It's about two minutes longer than most other performances of the Scherzo, and at times sounds a bit stiff and laid back. Still, the performance overall by the London Symphony is filled with so much splendid playing and insight that it is well worth Naxos' budget price. The sound is excellent and the booklet notes informative.

Copyright © 2007, Robert Cummings